Chapter III, Marcianus (continued) Book IX
(Eusebius begins further down page)
At first, as I have said, he willingly lived alone in his prison, and when he admitted those other two they did not live in the same cell, for it was hardly big enough for him alone, it was so small. It needed a great effort for him both to stand up and lie down, for when he stood his head and neck touched the roof, and he could not stretch out his legs when lying down because the length of the cell did not match the length of his body. So he let them build another shelter and told them to live there and pray and sing hymns and read the wisdom of the divines by themselves. When even more wanted to share in this profitable way of life he ordered another dwelling to be erected further off and bade those live in it who would. Eusebius was their leader, handing on the teaching of the great Marcianus. But when the divine Agapetus had become well trained and established, he went back home, as I have said, and sowed the seed which he had been given by that divine Marcianus. However, he became so well known and famous that he was held to be worthy of pontifical honour. Pastoral care was committed to his charge, the care of his native land was entrusted to his faithfulness.
Eusebius however, that admirable man, leader of a gathered flock, undertook the role of teacher, and alone was allowed the honour of visiting Marcianus as often as he wished, to consult him on whatever he wanted. One night he was bold enough to approach Marcianus' window, because he wanted to know what he was doing, and as he bent down to peer in, he saw a light of supernal beauty shining round the head of his guide, a light not caused by human hand but by God, teaching him how to understand the divine eloquence of the sacred Scriptures. For he was holding a book in his hand, searching for the most holy treasures of the will of God. This sight filled the admirable Eusebius with enormous awe and fear as he was being taught how grace was poured out upon this minister of God, and witnessed the good will of God towards his servants.
Once while the great Marcianus was praying just outside his door, a reptile [draco] crawled over the eastern wall and looked down from the top of the wall on Marcianus. It was hissing, and looked most horrible as it threatened to attack. Eusebius was standing some way off, terrified by this sight. Suspecting that his teacher was not aware of the beast he shouted out a warning, and begged him to flee. But Marcianus rebuked him and told him not to be afraid, (for to be afraid was a most injurious defect). Then he made the sign of the cross with his finger, and blew with his mouth at the beast, and poured out upon it all the enmity of the ages. It sizzled up immediately at Marcianus' breath as if scorched by fire, and was blown into fragments like sparks among the stubble. See now how this servant of goodwill was imitating the Lord. For when the Lord was at sea in the disciples' boat he saw how anxious and troubled they were, and did not still the tempest before he had rebuked the disciples for their little faith (Matthew 8.26). Following this example, the admirable Marcianus first quelled his disciple's fear, then punished the beast. Such was the wisdom of the great Marcianus, and his performing of miracles and faithfulness towards God. But although he was honoured with such grace as to be able to perform great miracles, he tried always to conceal his power, ever wary of the tricks of that plunderer of virtue who might subtly sow the vice of arrogance in an endeavour to snatch away the harvest gathered with so much labour. But although he wanted to hide the graces given him, miracles flowed forth from him unbidden; the splendour of his deeds rightly shone out, and laid bare his hidden powers.
Sometimes, something like this happened:
There was a man of honourable estate, a military commander, whose daughter had for a long time been raving in her speech, driven mad by the attack of an evil demon. This man had already had some contact with the great Marcianus, and came out into the desert hoping that in view of his former acquaintance he would be permitted to meet him and ask for help. But it was a false hope. He was prevented from getting an interview by the old man who at that time had been given the task of serving Marcianus. So he asked this servant if he would just take a small flask of oil and put it outside the door of Marcianus' little cell. The servant repeatedly said he would not do it, and the request was just as often repeated, until at last he gave way. But when the great Marcianus heard a little noise outside he asked who it was, where did he come from and what did he want. And the servant suppressed the truth, and simply said he had come to see whether Marcianus wanted anything. He had scarcely uttered the words before Marcianus sent him away.
Next morning the girl's father asked if he could have the flask of oil back. In some trepidation the servant went as quietly as possible, and tried to reach out his hand and pick up the flask without being heard. But Marcianus once again asked him what he wanted. But when he gave the same reply as he had given the evening before, the man of God would not accept it, seeing that it was quite unusual for him to come as often as that. He demanded to be told the truth. Realising that it was impossible to deceive someone so full of grace, the servant in fear and trembling told him who it was who had been seeking help because of this tragic disease, and showed him the flask. Marcianus was angry, because it stood to reason that he was unwilling to display his power.
"If I hear of anything like this again," he threatened, "going against my usual customs as you are, I shall take your ministry away from you." (For anyone who knew how to make money out of it, that would be a great loss.) He then dismissed him, telling him to return the flask to the owner. And he also issued commands: and the demon who was four days' journey away bellowed because of the power of those commands. For Marcianus was acting like a judge in Berhoea, and using some of his lictors against the demon. That wicked wretch was expelled, and the girl delivered completely from what was possessing her. The girl's father was informed about this as he returned. For while still a few miles from the city, a servant sent from the girl's mother came running towards him and told him that a miracle had occurred about four days earlier. Taking account of the time, he calculated that that was exactly when the old man had given him back the flask. It occurs to me to wonder what this great man might not have done if he had really set his mind to doing miracles. If such glory shone out when he was trying to conceal the powers that he had been given, what miracles might he not have done if really tried!
When he finally allowed people to visit him, on the day after celebrating the sacred passion and resurrection of the Lord, all were very eager to see him. The leading bishops gathered around him, the great Flavianus, whose faith was believed to have saved Antioch, the divine Acacius whom we mentioned earlier, Eusebius the bishop of Chalcedon, and Isodorus who at that time had charge of Cyrus, all of whom were men of great renown. Theodotus also joined them, he who held the reins of the church of Hierapolis, famous for his monastic discipline and gentleness. Many from among the judiciary also came, burning with faithful zeal. As they were all sitting around silently, waiting to hear his sacred voice, he also sat there for quite some time without saying anything, 'slow to speak, but swift to hear' (James 1.19). At last one of those sitting around spoke up. Marcianus knew him well for he had come to Marcianus for spiritual guidance, and was well known in other ways for his authority and worthiness.
"Father," he said, "all these divine fathers are hopefully thirsting for the sweet streams of your teaching. Please do not dam up the rivers of your kindness, but favour all those here with something of benefit to us."
He sighed deeply and then spoke.
"The God of all", he said, "speaks to us daily through his creation, and through the divine Scriptures he teaches what we need, and forewarns us; he alarms with threats of punishment, and encourages us by his promises; and yet we do not profit by them."
What was the purpose of Marcianus speaking like this, not only forbearing to be of use to others but also losing the benefits that others could have given him? He did it to encourage the other fathers to speak; but I feel it would be superfluous to bring what they said into my narrative. When they had all stood up to pray, they wanted to lay hands on Marcianus to ordain him to the priesthood, but they were apprehensive of doing so. They all urged each other to do it, but none of them was willing. And so they all departed.
I would like to add another story to the above, as an illustration of his divine prudence. A certain Avitus had gone into the desert earlier than Marcianus, and built a hut in which to carry out his monastic exercises. He had begun his labours at an earlier time than the great Marcianus, a lover of wisdom, and well trained in a hard ascetic life. When he heard of the virtues of Marcianus who was being talked about everywhere, he thought that such an example was very beneficial in the cause of silence and restfulness and set out to visit this attractive man. When the great Marcianus knew he had come he opened his door and welcomed him in, giving instructions to the admirable Eusebius to prepare some lentils and vegetables for him to eat. After they had satisfied their desire to have a conversation and learned about each other's virtues they said the office of Nones together. Eusebius then brought in some bread for their meal.
"Come now, my most dear friend," the great Marcianus said to the divine Avitus, " Let us share this meal together."
"Indeed," said Avitus, "I don't know whether I have ever eaten before Vespers, and sometimes I go two or three days without eating at all."
"But for my sake," said the great Marcianus, "let your custom be relaxed today, for I have rather a weak body and I cannot wait until Vespers." But these words had no effect whatsoever on the admirable Avitus. Marcianus sighed and went on to say:
"I am vexed in spirit and take it very hard that you have gone to such trouble to come and see a man whom you thought to be such a hard worker and lover of wisdom only to be disappointed of your hope and find a petty innkeeper living in delicate luxury."
Avitus was cut to the quick.
"I would rather eat flesh," he said, "than to hear you say such things."
"Well, my friend," said the great Marcianus, "I too follow the same life as you do, and embrace the same code of behaviour, and prefer work to idleness, and fasting to feasting, and do not usually eat till nightfall, but we know that charity is more important than fasting. Charity is prescribed by divine law, fasting is for us to make our own decision about. We must hold that the divine laws are more important for us."
And so they discussed these things among themselves, and took a little food, and praised God, and spent three days together before taking their leave of each other, knowing that they were united in spirit. How can anyone not admire the wisdom that governed everything this man did? He knew when it was a time for fasting and when for fraternal charity, he understood how one virtue differed from another, and which one should give way to the other and gain the victory in any given set of circumstances.
There is something else I can tell you to illustrate his perfect grasp of things divine. His sister came to visit him from their native land, bringing her son with her who was a leading citizen of the city of Cyrus. They brought an abundance of gifts for him to enjoy. He refused to see his sister, but seeing that it was at the time which he had definitely set aside for meeting people, he did admit the son, who begged him to accept the gifts they had brought.
"How many monasteries have you visited on the way," he asked, "and how much of what you bring have you shared out with them?"
"Nothing," he replied.
"Well, you can go, and take your gifts with you. I have no need of any of them, and even if I did need them I would not accept them, for you are doing this kindness simply because I am a relation of yours, and not with any intention of godly piety and service. You would not have singled me out for these gifts had you not had no care whatsoever for the general need."
And so he sent away his sister and her son, having given instructions that nothing which they had brought should be accepted from them. To act thus is of course contrary to nature, but he had been completely converted to a heavenly style of living. What more convincing evidence could there be brought that he was a worthy follower of God, conformed to the voice of God himself, who said 'For whosoever does not renounce father and mother, and sisters and brothers and wife and children is not worthy of me.' (Matthew 10.37)? If someone who renounces not is unworthy, someone who does renounce, especially in such exact and demanding terms, must obviously be considered worthy indeed.
Even more than this I admire how completely perfected he was in the matter of divine teaching. For he abhorred the infamies of Arius, who at that time was in the ascendant because of the power of the Emperor. He detested also the madness of Apollinaris and strenuously opposed those who agreed with Sabellius that the three persons or hypostases were not individually distinct. He brought strong arguments to bear on the people called 'Euchitae', who, wearing monastic habits, were infected with Manichaeism. And he was so zealous for ecclesiastical regulations that he could undertake a justifiable dispute even against a man who was a greatly respected divine. For there was a certain Abraham in that desert, with silvered hair but even more silvery in prudence, well known for every virtue, and continually pouring forth fruitful tears of compunction. Endowed with a certain simplicity he had from the beginning kept up the earlier celebration of Easter. Unaware, it seems, of what the Nicaean fathers had decreed on this matter, he was happily keeping to the old custom. There were many others at that time who were unwittingly doing the same. But the great Marcianus brought many arguments to bear as he attempted to persuade Abraham (for so he was called by those who lived in that region) to come into agreement with the Church. When he continued to be disobedient, Marcianus excommunicated him. But as time went on that divine man threw off that stain on his character, and fell into line with the customs of the Church in celebrating this feast, singing 'Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord' (Psalms 119.1). Such was the effect of the great Marcianus' teaching.
There were many people building oratories in various places: Alypius, his sister's son, in Cyrus, Zenobia, a famous one in Chalcedon, which was noted for its power and very rich. And there were quite a few others who were competing with each other in making plans to snatch that illustrious athlete's body, once he had obtained the victory [i.e. 'died']. When the man of God got to know about that he made the admirable Eusebius swear a terrifying oath that he would bury him in a place where nobody except the two companions who were living with him would discover where his grave was until many years later. The admirable Eusebius fulfilled this oath to the letter. For when the end of this remarkable, victorious life came at last, and the chorus of Angels had translated his divine and sacred soul to the heavenly regions, Eusebius did not announce his death until with two companions he had dug a grave, put the body in it, and smoothed out the earth above it. For more than fifty years many people came searching for his body, but his grave remained undiscovered.
Now one of the oratories which I just mentioned, dedicated to the apostles, received the relics of some other martyrs, thereby signifying that they were inheritors of the teaching and worship of those martyrs. The sole survivor of the three who buried Marcianus then revealed the place where he was buried, and the members of the oratory placed the remains of his precious body in a stone coffin which they had prepared two years earlier.
The admirable Eusebius had long been emulating the virtues of Marcianus, and never ceased disciplining his body. He carried around on his body a hundred and twenty Roman pounds of iron, then added on first another fifty which belonged to the divine Agapetus, then eighty belonging to the great Marcianus. He had an oratory in a hollow, from which the waters of a lake had been drained. He carried on this way of life for three years.
I have digressed into talking about these things because I wanted to show how great and how many were the deeds meticulously and virtuously carried out, of which Marcianus was the instigator and inspiration. The fruit resulting from his love of wisdom was also recognised by that splendid man Basil, who much later built a monastery at Seleucobelum, a city in Syria. He was famous for all kinds of virtues, but especially for those things most pleasing to God, namely the possession of charity and the godly work of hospitality. But who could count up, without boasting, how many workmen there were who 'handled rightly the word of truth', as the apostle puts it? (2 Timothy 2.15). For the moment I shall pass over many who were worthy of praise, lest they make this story too long. I shall just make mention of one only:
There was one whom they called Sabinus who used to come to Marcianus regularly. He used to subject his body to many labours. He never ate bread, nor anything which usually went with it; his sole food was flour mixed with water. His custom was to mix enough for a month, and it became mouldy and stank. By this diet he wanted to weaken the desires of the flesh, and make sure that the stench of the food saved him from taking any pleasure in it. [lit. enjoyment grew weaker through the stench of the food). This was his regime when on his own, but when any of his companions visited him he would with complete simplicity and lack of fuss eat whatever it was they brought with them.
As an example of how blessed he was by God's grace, a certain woman of Antioch, very influential because of her wealth and family, came to him begging his help for her daughter who was vexed with a demon.
"I saw in a dream," she said, "someone telling me to come here so that the prayers of the top person of the monastery might heal my child."
"The top person of the monastery," said the gatekeeper, "is not in the habit of talking with women."
But the woman persisted, weeping and howling and making a very loud noise until the prior [praefectus] came out.
"This is not the man," she said. "It was someone else that was shown to me in my dream, someone with a ruddy face and hard patches of skin on his knees."
Then they knew who it was she was looking for, and they persuaded him to come out and see the woman. No sooner had she recognised his face than the evil demon went out of the girl with a loud cry. Such were the marvellous deeds done by the disciples of Marcianus' disciples; so many flowers did this best of gardeners propagate everywhere.
But here I must bring this story to an end, and I beg and pray that all these disciples may plead for me, and bring me help from heaven.
In the tales that I have written so far I have shown how the sterile desert has brought forth fruits unto God, fruits ripe and beautiful, pleasing to him who made them grow, splendid and greatly to be sought after by people who are wise. Lest anyone should think that such virtue is circumscribed by place and that only the desert is suitable for bringing forth such a harvest, let us now go on to treat prayerfully of places which are inhabited and show that such places provide no impediment to developing a love of wisdom.
There is a high mountain to the east of Antioch and to the west of Berhoea, which is higher than all the other mountains nearby. The very top of it is shaped like a crown [uncertain text here], called thus because of its height. People living nearby call it korufhn, that is, vertex [= 'whirlpool, summit or crown']. At the highest point there was once a temple to the demons, held in greatest honour by the local people. But underneath it, to the South, a plain opens up, or rather, a valley, bounded on each side by gentle slopes. These slopes which are cut through on each side from south to North to provide footpaths, spread out to a road which can be ridden along on horseback. Country houses both large and small have been built here, near the mountains on each side. Hard by the edge of the highest part of the mountain there is a large, well populated village. The local people call it Teleda. Higher up still on the side of the mountain is a mountain valley, not very steep but gently sloping, facing the plain and the south wind.
Here a certain Ammianus built a school for lovers of wisdom [i.e, a monastery]. He was a man well known for his many virtues and surpassed all others in modesty, and sufficient proof of that lies in that he often had recourse to the great Eusebius in order to provide satisfactory teaching material not only for his fellows but for twice as many others as well. He begged and prayed that Eusebius would consent to be helper, trainer and schoolmaster for this establishment which he had founded.
Now Eusebius lived twenty-five miles away, shut up in his tiny little dwelling which did not even have any windows. It was Marcianus who had inspired him to this pitch of endeavour, Marcianus who had nurtured him, Marcianus the faithful servant of God, given the same name (1 Chronicles 6.49) as the Lord honoured the great Moses with. And once Marcianus had tasted for himself the divine love, he did not want to be the only one to enjoy such good things but caused many others to become his companions in this love. He attracted Eusebius to him and also his brother who accompanied him. For he thought it would be unreasonable to encourage people to be virtuous who were not related, if he did not treat brothers the same. He drew both of them into his little household, and trained them in living according to the gospel. But their training was interrupted when the brother fell ill, and death followed soon after. A few days after his brother had departed the great Eusebius came completely to terms with the fact that his life had ended, and remained with Marcianus throughout his life, speaking to no one, hidden from public view, totally enclosed. He continued to embrace this life after Marcianus' death, until the admirable Ammianus came to him with many persuasive arguments.
"Tell me, O best of men," said Ammianus, "Whom do you think you are pleasing by following this laborious, mean and squalid lifestyle?"
"God," replied Eusebius, speaking to him as an equal, "for God is the lawgiver and guide to all virtue."
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